AUBURN — A fourth fire station south of the city, near Exit 75, would reduce emergency response times to a growing part Auburn.
That's one finding of a 118-page audit of Auburn Fire Department operations released by the city Friday afternoon.
The audit, performed by Matrix Consulting Group of Palo Alto, Calif., in October, also found that the Fire Department is adequately staffed for typical or moderate household-type risks but not for higher risks involving larger structures.
Interim Fire Chief Geoff Low said he received the report Friday morning. He emailed copies to the City Council and union officials Friday and said he hopes to post a copy to the city's website soon.
It was commissioned by the city partially in response to conflicts with city councilors last summer. In one instance, a city councilor followed an Auburn firetruck as it drove around, videotaping the trip.
"But a large part of it was lingering questions the public has had about why we have so many stations and why we have so many firefighters," Low said. "This was one way to compile some answers in a nonbiased format."
The study involved consultants reviewing Fire Department records, city plans and census forecasts and interviewing city firefighters.
Auburn has three fire stations. Auburn Engine 5, Tower 1, a technical rescue vehicle, a boat and a truck are housed at the 651 Center St. station. That station is staffed by two lieutenants and five firefighters.
The New Auburn station is housed at 181 South Main St. and houses pumper truck Engine No. 2. It is staffed by a lieutenant and two firefighters.
Central Station at 550 Minot Ave. is home to Engine 3 and the battalion chief's vehicle. It's staffed by a battalion chief, captain, lieutenant and two firefighters, as well as the department's administration.
Those stations provide a four-minute response times to the entire downtown. The department provides eight-minute response to rural areas of the city, including Exit 75 on the Maine Turnpike, and provides 12-minute response near the city limits. Response to the Danville area and the Durham line is outside the 12-minute response.
Building a new station near Exit 75 would extend the four-minute response south to include much of Danville, the Auburn-Lewiston Municipal Airport and the southern business parks.
The audit also finds that the department typically has 13 firefighters able to respond to any emergency, with a maximum of 15 at times.
That is sufficient to respond to most of the emergencies in Auburn, but would fall short of emergencies that would occur at larger high-risk structures.
The audit also recommends the department adopt a formal policy for dealing with the press and the public, strengthen its website, publish an annual report to the public and seek department accreditation through a national group.
"I think it validates a lot of what we've believed about ourselves all along, but have not been able to verify on our own," Low said. "It was definitely worth it and is a document we can refer to as we go forward."